Sun Ra's Journey from the Tyler Mitchell Octet signals listeners to begin their own happy joy dance. Recorded live at Smalls Jazz Club in August 2021, the music is an animating run through six familiar Sun Ra compositions, plus plenty of surprises.
Tyler Mitchell is a Ra alumnus who can be heard on the Black Saint recordings Hours After (1989) and Reflections In Blue (1987), Live In Kalisz 1986 (Lanquidity Records, 2019) and the 1986 studio session Prophet (Modern Harmonic, 2022). He was also a member of Arthur Taylor's Wailers in the 1990s. After a hiatus from the American scene, he returned as a member of the Spike Wilner Trio and reconnected with Sun Ra's Arkestra, now under the direction of Marshall Allen. Mitchell can be heard on Live At Babylon (In+Out, 2015) and Swirling (Art Yard/Strut, 2020).
This session was part of the Smalls LIVE Living Masters Series and it honors both Mitchell and the then 97 year old maestro Marshall Allen. The two had previously released the excellent Dancing Shadows (Mahakala Music, 2021) with tenor saxophonist Chris Hemingway, alto saxophonist Nicoletta Manzini, drummer Wayne Smith, and percussionist Elson Nacimento. Here they augment that sextet with trumpeter Giveton Gelin, a second percussionist Ron Mcbee, and pianist Farid Barron.
Ra's music is familiar and delivered with all the loving exaltation it deserves. From the sly swing of "Velvet" to the charging passion of "Dancing Shadows" and the transcendental mysticism of "Love In Outer Space" the octet is spot on, with Marshall Allen adding both his automatic firing alto saxophone and cosmic electronic valve instrument (EVI) to the affair. Elsewhere, the octet delivers a Ra-accented and inspired take on Thelonious Monk with their version of "Skippy." "La Dolce Vita" slides across as an intoxicating yet charming ballad, and Mitchell's composition "Bouncing at Smalls" begins dissembled, before the bassist takes a brief solo and stitches the entire octet back into one piece. Besides the elders, the draw here is the rising saxophone stars Nicoletta Manzini and Chris Hemingway. Can we have another dance, please?
Care Free; Velvet; Free Ballad; Dancing Shadows; Eddie Harris; Discipline 27; Bouncing At Smalls;
Skippy; New Dawn; Cosmic Hop; Love In Outer Space; Fate In A Pleasant Mood.
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